Much as I automatically deny it, video games have influenced every element of my life in some way.
If Sherlock Holmes were to spy me on the street wearing any one of the garments in my closet, he would be able to deduce, as he shook my hand, "So you are a fan of the television games, I perceive." I'm going to dig a hole to China re: the clothes I wear and their relation to video games.
First, I will go downstairs.
I Play the Electric Guitar
If you've read my writing before, I apologize for repeating myself (I am trying to be newcomer-friendly!): I play the electric guitar in a noisy rock band that originated in Tokyo and now thrives (on our own terms (that is to say, in a garage)) in Oakland, California. In Tokyo, we sure did have some adventures! We were jerks, and I was certainly the bigger jerk of us.
This guitar (I say "this" because, as always, being that I am using the computer, it is in my lap) is part of a limited run of only one hundred "sapphire blue" Gibson SG 45th Anniversary 1961 Reissues from 2006. The other thousands of 2006 series Gibson SG 61 Reissues were "heritage cherry", which is a shade about as red as my guitar is blue.
Despite its being literally The Awesomest Color, my sapphire blue Gibson SG was not at all popular. One guitar blogger wrote:
". . . what self-respecting guitarist wants to play Jessica by the Allman Brothers with a guitar that's "Sapphire" blue?"
First of all, I am not purporting to respect myself. Secondly, Duane Allman, arguably the coolest part of the whole concept of the Allman Brothers, was dead long before they wrote "Jessica". Third of all, is he insinuating that "sapphire" is a loser's prefix for a color? What's less tough-guyish about blue, or more tough-guyish about red? The red finish is equally bright and showy. If anything, the sapphire blue is quieter and more dignified. You'd be less likely to be pulled over in my guitar than a red SG (if Gibson SGs were cars).
I like this guitar. I like the way it sounds; I like the way it feels; I love the way it looks. A large part of that is the color.
When I saw this guitar in a guitar shop, I was immediately drawn to it. It is the exact same color of the standard-issue Subaru WRX STi. I love that color.
One night I sat in my living room, working on something dark and serious, all the while scraping my guitar. My guitar was, unusually for working hours, plugged into a small amplifier. I was searching for a particular tone with my ZVEX Fuzz Factory pedal and some octave effects. I eventually found the sound I liked. I'd been searching for this particular sound for a particular song for what felt like months. I recorded a loop of it on my delay pedal. I let it loop while I continued working. My friend eventually came in, listened to the guitar tone looping for a moment, and then pointed out, "It sounds exactly like a PC-Engine game." She surfed YouTube for a half an hour, trying to find the game my guitar tone sounded exactly like. She didn't find it — because they all sounded like my guitar.
This was around where I realized that I had bought this guitar because it was the exact same color of the sky in the original Sonic The Hedgehog game.
This is also where I point out that one of my chief musical influences has always been a progressive Japanese funk band called Jagatara.
I had heard about the band because a Japanese friend who liked the band Dreams Come True told me that the bassist of Dreams Come True was a die-hard fan of Jagatara. I knew about Dreams Come True because of the bonus features of the game Sonic Jam—a collection of Sonic The Hedgehog games for the Sega Saturn. Dreams Come True's bassist, Masato Nakamura, had done the music for Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. My first reaction to the band—the song was called "Michikusa"—was that this kind of music would sound awesome in a Sonic the Hedgehog game, though only if that Sonic the Hedgehog game were even more awesome than all of the previous Sonic the Hedgehog games combined.
Jagatara opened me up to a whole enormous host of Japanese bands of the 1970's, eventually leading me to think that living in Japan would be a Thing To Do At Some Point.
So, I have Sonic the Hedgehog to thank for my taste in guitar colors, and an integral slice of my music taste, which led to the country where I lived in for a decade. As of this writing "He lived in Japan for 10 years" is still how friends introduce me to other friends.
My guitar—and Sonic the Hedgehog, by proxy—are important to my fashion taste, of course, because of a little psychological puzzle that could probably freak out Sigmund Freud. Here's a summary:
"What should we wear on stage at the next show?" said one member of my band, once, long ago.
"What? Why would we even think about that?"
"It's something to be thinking about," said another member of my band.
"I don't want to be the type of band that thinks about that."
"That's a bit hypocritical, for someone with such an eclectic fashion sense."
"Just because I'm always thinking about what I wear doesn't mean I want to think, on top of that, what specific portion of my wardrobe I'll be wearing at a specific time."
So it is that, probably, every article of clothing I buy first must pass through a subconscious gauntlet: The chief question is, "Will this clash with my guitar in a way which is mathematically wrong?"
On the occasion of my guitar strap being green, I will subconsciously elect to not wear a red shirt (reason: Christmas colors are creepy). My guitar goes best, if I do say so myself, with the green strap and a purple jacket, or with a red strap and a purple jacket. I make all these decisions in the back of my mind, so I am not a poser or a faker. Or, at least, I wasn't a poser or a faker until I broke this process down in writing. Oh, well! Here's to another decade of posing and faking.
My Final Fantasy Hair
Somewhere around 1998, Final Fantasy games stopped being about labyrinthine Dickensian plots and started being about hair which you the player will feel the urge to eat. Between Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy XIII, hair in Final Fantasy games evolved to resemble cotton candy in the flavor of fruits even god wouldn't have the imagination to have invented yet.
(I must point out somewhere in this thing that I am not a hipster—I am the proto-hipster. I am the guy all of the hipsters are ripping off.)
It was with slow-burning—at first, casual—interest that I beheld the haircuts of hip Japanese rock and roll stars of yore. My experience touching the hair of modern Japanese independent rock musicians (always consensual (I touched Bump of Chicken's lead singer's hair back in 2002)) dismayed me: their hair was a malleable, infinitely stylable wiry texture which my flowing, brittle, mixed Caucasian hair could never achieve. Japanese hair is infinitely suitable to outlandish styling; for a while, I was a little bit sad. Then, I got over it.
Then, someone offered me $600 for my hair for a wig. Apparently I am a virtuoso male Rapunzel. My hair wasn't inferior to Japanese people's—in fact, it wasn't inferior to anybody's! If you put my hair on a more attractive person's body, you'd be looking at a supermodel. What I'd been doing wrong, you see, was that I'd been getting terrible haircuts and using beauty products that cost less than $50 a bottle. Once I cleared those two problems up, I was gorgeous.
According to the hairstylist who finally set me right—this hairstylist happened to have a picture of Sora from Kingdom Hearts stuck to the corner of a mirror in her salon—the Final Fantasy hair ideal is based on Caucasian hair, and that stiffer Asian hair is often styled so radically to give the impression of flowing movement in still photographs. She calmly told me that I needn't aspire to a hair type which aspires to merely an impression of movement, because I had hair which could, when properly cared for, move and flow luxuriously.
Here's a rule of thumb if you too want to look like a postmodern Final Fantasy character in your everyday life: don't ever buy a hygiene product if:
- The bottle claims it does more than one thing (this is The Cardinal Rule).
- You're seeing it in a store that sells anything apart from hygiene products.
Hair types differ wildly from person to person, so you may require a different shampoo than someone else, though I would say that Tigi's Bed Head line is pretty fantastic for a mid-range deal. Get the green one—"Control Freak", it's called—for extra Final Fantasy quality. The bottle says it "straightens" your hair, though the effect is quite mild. Mainly, what you want it for is to keep the hair follicles from getting frizzy. Splurge on a decent flatiron, and you can turn your hair into fancy blades with hilarious simplicity. Also, follow these rules:
- Use conditioner
- Seriously, use conditioner
- Seriously, shampoo is for washing your scalp; the conditioner is for washing your hair
- You cannot possibly have naturally clean hair which does not require conditioner
- Also, you are not Superman
- Leave the conditioner in for five minutes
- Rinse your hair in cold water — the coldest you can put up with (ice water if you can (don't freeze your ears (that hurts)))
- Seriously: cold water. You know how nasty your hair gets when you sweat? Sweat more or less = warm water.
- (Crucial) Let your hair air dry; if you must use a dryer, put it on the "cool" setting.
I personally use Aveda's "Shampure" shampoo and "Shampure" conditioner. They're pretty great! They're made entirely of plants. If they tested Aveda Shampure shampoo and conditioner on animals, the animals would love it, and they would be beautiful, and people would love those animals far more than they love any other animals.
I then apply Biosilk Silk Therapy treatment to my hair and brush it through. Silk Therapy is up to $45 at Target for a 12-ounce bottle [Note from Tim's editor: Yes, shopping for conditioner at Target does appear to violate one of Tim's previously-numbered rules, but occasionally our writer has been known to include jokes] The 12-ounce will last you a year—or you can get a 12-ounce bundle with bottles of Silk Therapy shampoo and Silk Therapy conditioner (which are awful, and cost $15 each), for just $22. I do not understand why that is, though I don't complain. I have bottles of Silk Therapy shampoo and conditioner in my house, and I'm always trying to give them to people who I perceive as in need of a step up in hair care. No one wants them.
I straighten my hair with a cheap-o $26 iron I got at Target, one which is safe to use on wet hair (it has a "drying" function, though I don't trust it, and always let my hair dry at least 80% before applying the iron).
I use a comb made of apricot wood. It's really good about getting through the hair without generating static electricity.
In plainer terms, if you want Final Fantasy hair, just splurge a bit on the shampoo, conditioner, and treatment, and get any old iron. Also, make sure to grow some hair first, and then get it cut by someone who doesn't work in a mall.
That's my hair after I've shampooed, conditioned, let my hair air dry, not ironed it, and then sat in a hot room working for 16 hours straight, sweating like a frustrated ostrich and breathing like an obese rhinoceros. I'd show you what it looks like Under Ideal Circumstances—perfect lighting, with careful use of expensive styling products, and tasteful application of a straightening iron—though that would feel like cheating. I am showing you the truth, here. I am showing you nature. The truth is: You too can have this nature. You can have it every day.
My PlayStation-era CG cut-scene skin
As an introverted youngster who spent most (all) of my free time indoors doing two things (being obese and playing video games), the characters in my beloved videocontests were more real to me than my real friends (because my real friends did not exist). So it was that when I could, at last, see them in three dimensions, and animated as though alive, I could not help the hands that grasped the bar for beauty and set it higher. When you see Super Mario in Super Mario 64 for the first time as a 17-year-old boy who works at a Target store populated mostly by elderly Russian women, you can't help seeing that skin and thinking, "Why can't real people look like that?"
By the time I first played Final Fantasy VIII, I had quit both my job at Target and my habit of being obese. I was in Good Physical Shape and Popular With Ladies. If you had to describe 1999 Me's appearance in one word, "Proto-bro" ("brototype") might be apt. I had short hair, wore cargo pants, competed in triathlons, all that stuff. I saw Squall in that opening cut scene and cursed this ugly beard stubble of mine. "Squall doesn't have stubble! None of these people in these Japanese video games have stubble. Beards are so dumb."
Nowadays (whenever a business meeting falls into abrupt silence and someone feels like they have to pay me a desperate compliment or else I will fire them,) I hear a lot of comments about how nice my skin is. People liken it to all manner of substances or fabrics—I have been fishing for someone to, after laying the back of their hand on my cheek, to say it "feels like alien leather", though I've yet had no luck. Truly, my skin is magnificent. How did this happen? I have no proof—only a list of hypotheses.
- I stay inside a lot (playing games, et cetera), avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun
- I am a quarter Hawaiian (I tan very quickly and do not burn)
- I do not drink alcohol (and never have)
- I do not smoke cigarettes (and never have)
- I do not eat meat (and (mostly) never have)
- I drink two to four liters of water a day
- I drink one to one and a half liters of green tea a day
- I avoid manual labor
- I always take the stairs (unless it's unreasonable (i.e., anything over 12 floors))
- I regularly (five times a week) exercise aerobically (running, rope-jumping, skull-crushing) with an intensity that occasionally (thrice weekly) brings about acute nausea
- I shave using only the finest-quality products
Of these 11 hypotheses—all of which I am sure are somewhat relevant—perhaps only the 11th is indisputable.
Go to Art of Shaving. Get yourself some pre-shave oil, some shaving soap, some after-shave balm, and a badger-hair brush. If you're not fearless enough to start shaving with a straight razor (maybe you shouldn't be), at least get a Gillette Mach 5 Fusion razor. There are a million websites—or at least a thousand—that can tell you how to shave properly. Shaving is, after all, a science that peaked over a hundred years ago. The first tip I will give you is that you have to be shaving with the hottest water you can withstand—just as you rinse your hair conditioner with the coldest possible water. When you are done shaving, splash the iciest water you can find on your face, to close your pores. This is, as Conan The Barbarian would explain it, The Mystery Of Steel: fire and ice together make steel. Hot water and cold water together make a smooth face and luxurious hair.
I Own Many Adidas Track Suits
Someone tells Billy Pilgrim, in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five, to go by the name "Billy", because there just aren't enough adult Billys. Remaining "Billy" well into adulthood is one of Billy Pilgrim's secrets of success in business (he is a dentist: who wouldn't want a dentist named Billy?).
The point is that image is important. I never met someone who told me to ask people to call me "Billy" (unless you count reading Slaughterhouse-Five at age 11), though I have received numerous fashion tips from famous or semi-famous humans. Tomonobu Itagaki told me that I should never pay less than $800 for a leather jacket. Shinji Mikami told me to start wearing a wedding ring if I wanted people to trust me. Hideo Kojima recommended the boutique where I bought my superhuman gold-studded eyeglasses. (At the time, he was wearing glasses from the same brand. Now his are not nearly as fabulous as mine.) Yuji Horii taught me—without explicit instruction—to never, ever start smoking (the man smells like a hot bucket of wet cigarette butts).
Takahashi Meijin—former president of Hudson, and the only video game executive to star as the hero of a platform game (Hudson's Adventure Island—told me to have fun with my life. I thought this over a little bit harder than I probably had to. My friend Bob and I were sitting around my house in Tokyo, and I emerged from my bed at the crack of noon to inform him that we would need to start wearing Adidas Originals Firebird track suits right now if we ever wanted to be heroes of a platform game. Bob leaped from his computer chair. We were in Shinjuku minutes later, plunking down wads of bills.
The track suits we bought were idiotic and cartoonish. We wore them to E3 2010 to maximize our visibility. It worked: I was working in an office, doing game design on a project nine months later. The director was having a phone conversation with some marketing mastermind. The mastermind was on his way down from Seattle to the San Francisco Bay Area. He told the director he had an idea for promotion of our game, and it involved getting this one guy who wore a green Adidas Firebird track suit to E3 and made a YouTube movie about the experience. The director didn't know how to break the news to the marketing mastermind, so what we did was: I went home, put on my track suit, and came back to the office in time for the guy to show up. We all lolled pretty hard, I tripped on my way to the bathroom, and turned around to see what I had tripped on, and—lo!—it was a million god darn dollars.
My limited edition 1970s-style Fairway Green Adidas Originals Firebird Tracksuit, which is vintage-authentic down to every molecule of high-quality polyester, was sold only in the flagship Adidas Originals shop in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and it's the tiniest, dumbest size. The visibility it afforded me as a goofy sort of professional person (who otherwise does fine, serious work) came in both positive and negative flavors. When the American Adidas Originals line rolled out its own updated Firebird track suits in the later 1970s style, popularized by Run DMC in the 1980s, I knew I had to be vigilant, and snipe all the colors I could. This is how I ended up with a purple Adidas Firebird Track suit.
This is a look I had coveted since seeing a concert video when I was in high school. In it, purple-loving Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis was wearing a purple Adidas Firebird track jacket with a pair of ripped up jeans and Nike Dunks. I was hardly fashionable—and Mascis is hardly heralded as a paragon of fashion taste—though something felt instantly wrong about wearing an Adidas jacket and Nike shoes. Then I reflected on the virtuosity of the man's guitar technique, and realized that he could, in fact, do whatever the heck he wanted (even play a Fender guitar through a not-Fender amp).
Years passed. I had been living in Japan for two whole days when I decided to buy a Super Famicom and some Dragon Quest games to aid my learning of the language. There was Dragon Quest V, the one that had alluded me long ago. Electronic Gaming Monthly had previewed it, and every molecule of me was certain that it was The Game For Me. I'd played the first four Dragon Warrior games; I needed the fifth. I had held that conviction for nearly 10 years. Dragon Quest V had never been released in the U.S., and I had felt weird and wrong about playing a translated ROM on an emulator. Here was the cartridge: there was that box art: look at that purple.
So I thought: Why am I, like Caesar, like Cleopatra, like J. Mascis, like The Hero From Dragon Quest V, not dressing in this color all of the time? So it was that I began to change. A decade slid by. There, in 2010, was the purple Adidas Firebird track suit. I bought one. I should have bought 16 (they have once again evaporated into the mist). I will never stop wearing this jacket.
Next up is this primary blue Adidas Originals Firebird suit. With a white V-neck T-shirt underneath, these red Adidas Originals ZX-500 shoes, and a pair of white tube socks with yellow stripes, I am, officially, finally, Sonic The Hedgehog.
What video-game-industry-employed naturally-brown-haired male individual's Adidas Originals Firebird track suit collection is complete without red, and a terrible joke of a mustache? This was my costume for the Nintendo keynote at the 2011 Game Developer's Conference. Note the blue soccer bag strap. That touch right there is the key. The original plan was to wear a red Yankees cap, though I eventually nixed the idea: whatever would I do with a red Yankees cap after GDC was over—start a Limp Bizkit cover band?
I am not ashamed of what I like
I have acquired, over the years, an extensive T-shirt collection. It consists of equal parts "Jurassic Park" T-shirts and NASCAR T-shirts. I am working on a medium-sized collection of Jurassic Park NASCAR shirts, as well. My criteria for picking a T-shirt at a thrift shop involves asking myself if it matches my guitar, and then asking myself if the reference it contained is of something I genuinely appreciate. For example: I genuinely appreciate NASCAR for non-ironic reasons. (Ask me nicely, and maybe I'll talk about NASCAR later.) Finally, I ask myself if the size of the shirt doesn't make it impossible for me to wear. Using this system, I have acquired many shirts of colors ranging from purple to green to blue to black ((almost) never red), displaying a range of designs that vary from "Jurassic Park" to NASCAR to bald eagles to motorcycles to trains to the Minnesota Vikings, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Athletics, and the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. At present, none of my T-shirts features designs inspired by video games.
How, then, does this have anything to do with video games? It's difficult to sum up: I'll try: when I was young, like any person who ever writes about video games for fun or for profit, I worked at Gamestop. The visit of a game publisher representative was an angelic event. They'd bring all sorts of—as the guys at the shop called it—"swag". Usually it was T-shirts. Once, I got a Capcom shirt. It had the "CAPCOM" logo on the back. It was huge. On the front, it had the "CAPCOM" logo in little letters, right above the right breast.
The shirt was big enough to fit a sumo wrestler and a sumo wrestler's pet bottlenose dolphin. I did a little imagination exercise: if I were fat enough to wear that shirt, I'd certainly have footbally man-boobs as well. This little "CAPCOM" logo, I theorized, would be sitting right atop my man-boob, like a knick-knack on a shelf. It would jiggle as I hurried to class—because of my bulk (and because of how spread-out and bus-barren my campus was), I'd always be running late. Halfway through this mental exercise, I concluded that the "CAPCOM" logo—all capitals, bold serif on the font, yellow letters, blue outline—was really a striking bit of graphic design. I wondered why they couldn't just put that logo on the front of the shirt, centered.
I started looking critically at all the video game-related T-shirts I had acquired over the year I'd worked at Gamestop. They were terrifying. They all had a tiny image on the front right breast, and a larger version of the same image on the back. I thought, if you like something enough to wear a shirt with that thing on it, why would you want it on your back? What is with the assumption that most of the people in the world you want to know what you like are going to, by nature, be standing behind you? It's true, I imagined, that the publishers hand these shirts out to people in hopes that the people will do some free advertising for them. Who do these companies expect the advertising to impress? Who cares what's on a fat person who works in a video game store's T-shirt? I creeped myself halfway out with this thought-cycle.
Somewhere in the middle of this, I thought that I like things enough to not care if other people know what I like. I thought of what a shame it was that the sweet picture of Cloud Strife was on the back of my pre-order-bonus Final Fantasy VII T-shirt. On the other of my mind's hands, I thought about how much I liked bold designs and primary colors. Later on, when spring 1999 had rolled around, I found I had started wearing my Indianapolis 500 1995 T-shirt again. Twelve years later: Tony Stewart's "Jurassic Park III": The Ride: The Car: The T-shirt.
(Here I should mention that this ugly game-T-shirt business took place in 1998, before Meat Bun existed. I sure would wear this T-shirt (dragon, viking, axe!)!) [Editor's note: Kotaku's Mike McWhertor is the co-founder of Meatbun.]
Once I get started talking about jeans (or most other things), I can hardly stop. Also, once I start talking about jeans, I can hardly refrain from turning that talking about jeans into a game review. So it was that I started talking about jeans here, and before I knew it I had written a review of Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows of the Damned. I've posted it on my personal blog, Action Button Dot Net, which has a nifty new layout and a bunch of new articles for you to read, if you are somehow able to read this here without throwing up at least in the top of your throat.
Last And Most Important: Expensive Underwear
I do not own a single pair of underwear that cost me less than $28. Some of them cost me $32—they are, of course, about $7 better than the $28 pairs (as these things go).
For many years, I put up with cheap underwear and I couldn't have cared less. Then, one day, killing time in a Calvin Klein outlet store in Chiba, I accidentally found myself with a pair of "Steel" boxer briefs in my hand, and curiosity killed my cat. I bought one pair. I then suffered inferiority six days a week. The bridge had been burned. It took two years, though I come before you today as a man who has finally purchased two weeks' worth of quality underwear (two weeks' worth is important: I might neglect my laundry). I am never going back.
I talk about high-quality underwear with evangelist-like frequency. My friends unanimously scoff. My friends aren't (just) assholes and jerkwipes—they are just ignorant (and sometimes stupid).
Listen to me: listen to every syllable of every word I am saying: expensive underwear is the best thing you can wear. When you get right down to it, why would you care what you're wearing if you don't care about your underwear? Why would you care what you look like, when you don't feel as God Darn Amazing as you would feel if you were wearing $30 underwear? At the end of it all, "fashion" is more about feeling confident enough to actually be confident. People aren't just seeing you. They're seeing a projection of how you feel. A pair of $30 underwear can be all you need to make you feel like a man who walks in a way that makes his five-dollar thrift-store jeans look like a million dollars. (Okay, not a million dollars—though maybe they can compete with a pair of $200 Diesels. (Wear thirty-dollar underwear with $200 Diesels, and you can make those jeans compete with a pair of $1,400 Dior denim slacks (et cetera).)
If you were already on my side before I started on underwear, allow me to apologize for the tone:
Listen: underwear is The Closest Garment to The Most Sensitive Part Of Your Body. Why wouldn't you want to wear good ones?
I have traveled far and wide, and determined that Calvin Klein X Galaxy are the best underwear for me. I'd recommend them to you as well. I personally prefer the regular length—the low-rise variety are quite the acquired taste (for days when I have an Important Meeting).
Those Calvin Klein X Galaxy boxers, by the way, are the only thing I am wearing as I write this.
And that brings us, in all succinctness, to the most important point of this writtenthing: fashion is ultimately not nearly as important as its role in supporting you as you strive for the freedom and wherewithal to wear nothing at all as often as you can. We feel better when we are free—free of clothes. And I know for a fact (kind of) that most of you Real Gamers out there aren't wearing more than underwear while you're on Xbox Live. I can hear it in the tones of your voices. If it's all you're going to be wearing, wear good ones, for god's sake.
A video version of this article, part one.
A video version of this article (and this one), part two.
Tim's grooming and exercise tips.